Monday, October 15, 2007

Sober Thoughts

It's been a really long time since I've posted and I'm afraid the only thing I want to write about isn't particularly cheerful. Sorry!

Last week I went to a teaching conference on the Holocaust. Now this topic has interested me for a long time. I have been to Dachau and the US Holocaust Museum in DC twice. The conference was really interesting, even more so because there were several survivors there and we had a chance to talk with them personally. I felt a sense of urgency in hearing them because virtually our kids (if they are fortunate) will be the last people to hear these stories in person. It's a sobering thought and one that gives me a profound sense of responsibility. I have had the fortune to hear survivors speak a couple of times and it's pretty amazing. There's a local website that chronicles the lives of surviors who live in my area. Several are the ones we met last week. A couple are already dead. If you have a chance and can hear a survivor speak personally, I really encourage it. At least the ones here are really eager to have their stories heard. Our school is planning to do a whole day and have several come and speak.

By the way, this comic in the local university student paper was of particular discussion the whole time.

Many of the speakers also urged us to find out more about genocide going on around the world, such as in Darfur. I feel convicted because I've been hearing about this for years, but never have really stopped to find out more about it, let alone do anything.

On a somewhat similar note, I have become obsessed with PBS' documentary "The War" by Ken Burns. I've never been a "war person" and couldn't tell if the Battle of the Bulge was during the Civil or Revolutionary War (the answer is ofcourse WWII) and why it had that weird name. Like I said, I'm interested in the Holocaust, primarily because I love stories and battles and war seemed so impersonal. But "The War" sucked me in with of all things, a marathon. So I watched several episodes and was absolutely riveted. The best part is that these men and women tell their personal stories and it really made the events come alive for me. I have even been to Normandy and saw where D-Day occurred, but I don't think I really understood it until I watched it on "The War" and heard the men talk about their experience. It fills me humility to think of the sacrifices that were made. I also so regret the fact that both my grandpas fought in the war and they're both dead now and I never once got to hear their stories (although it wouldn't be surprising if they didn't want to share them). Though some of the results of the war were, at best, morally ambiguous (Hiroshima??) there is no denying the way we are forever changed because of it.

[A somewhat related tangent, I saw the movie Becoming Jane and was struck by how difficult life was for women in that time and really what little freedom they had. It must have been so frustrating to not be able to make money or have a career or be able to choose things you wanted. I found myself thinking, how did things change for women? And of course there were a lot of things, including feminism and women's sufferage, but also WWII. Women joined the work force in droves when the men were off fighting. So some of the reason that I have the freedoms to work and live my life the way I do is also because of the war.]

Anyway, those were some of my rambling "deep" thoughts. Up next I'm watching the series "Band of Brothers" so I'll see if this inspires any more.

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